NCAA Basketball Picks: Home Favorite Utah Will Cover ATS vs. Colorado

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, March 5, 2016 3:17 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 5, 2016 3:17 PM UTC

Utah could clinch a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title on Saturday with a win over visiting Colorado. The Utes are 9.5-point favorites against the Buffs on the NCAA basketball odds boards.

Buffaloes Can Set School Record
Colorado (21-9, 10-7) was on the NCAA Tournament bubble about a week ago following losses at USC and UCLA. But the Buffs are solidly in the field of 68 now following a 75-72 upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 24 (ending CU's 11-game slide against ranked teams) and then a 79-69 win over Arizona State on Sunday in CU's home finale. Most projections have the Buffs as a No. 9 seed in the Big Dance currently but that will change depending on what they do in the Pac-12 Tournament. CU is currently fifth in the standings -- only the top four teams get a first-round bye.

CU's best player is senior forward Josh Scott, and he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday for the second time this season. He averaged 20.5 points (shooting 57 percent), 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in those two wins over the Arizona schools last week. Scott is averaging 16.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks this season while hitting 55.4 percent from the field. He’s one of just two players in the Pac-12 to rank among the league’s Top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage. Scott should be drafted by some team in the NBA this summer, although perhaps not until the second round.

The 21 regular-season wins match a school record for Colorado. The only other teams to reach that number were the 1996-97 squad (led by future NBA star Chauncey Billups) and the 2013-14 team.

“How often do you get a chance to break a record, something that’s never been done in 115 years? That’s pretty special," CU coach Tad Boyle said of this game.

Colorado is 16-11 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds boards this season and 5-5 ATS on the road.


Utes Rooting For USC On Saturday
Utah (23-7, 12-5) has a shot at sharing the Pac-12 regular-season title but needs a win here and an Oregon loss Saturday at USC, which is very possible because the Trojans are an excellent team at home. The Oregon-USC game will be long over before this one tips off. The Ducks beat the Utes twice during the regular season so they would win any tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Utes are locked into a first-round bye for the tourney no matter what.

You see those stats on Scott above and how he was one of two conference players to rank in the Top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocks and shooting? The other is Utah center Jakob Poeltl, who will be a lottery pick this summer if he declares for the NBA Draft as expected. The 7-foot Austrian is averaging 17.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and hitting 66.7 percent of his shots, which is easily No. 1 in the conference and among the national leaders. Poeltl is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Award and a top candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year. He also is up for Wooden, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar awards.

The Utes have won a school-record six straight Pac-12 games and their No. 13 ranking is the highest of the season. Their most impressive victory in that stretch was easily Saturday's 70-64 home victory over No. 9 Arizona. It was the Utes' first win against Arizona since defeating the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament back in 1998. That Utah team lost in the national title game.

This will be Senior Night in Salt Lake City. Two other of Utah's best players are seniors: Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. The Utes have won seven straight games at home and are 15-1 there this season. The loss was to Oregon on Jan. 17.

Utah is 14-13-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 7-6-1 ATS at home.


First Meeting
On Jan. 8 in Boulder, the game was a pick'em between the Utes (unranked then) and Buffs with Utah winning 56-54. Lorenzo Bonam converted a floating layup just over the outstretched arms of Colorado's Scott with 1.1 seconds left for the win. On CU's previous offensive possession, Bonam made a steal to set up his winner. The Utes outscored Colorado 11-2 over the final 4:48. Bonam led the Utes with 17 points. George King led Colorado, which led by nine with about five minutes left, with 21 points. That would be CU's only home loss of the season. The Utes, who outscored Colorado 11-2 over the final 4:48, have won four straight in the series.

I would wait until that Oregon-USC game is over. I think if the Ducks win, the Utes might be a bit flat knowing they can't share the title and I'd take the points here. But then the opposite if the Trojans win. The Utes are generally beasts at home. CU is just 2-9 ATS in its past nine Saturday games. Utah is 5-0 ATS in its past five games. It has covered four straight at home in the series. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Utah -11.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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